Softball Struggles To Find Its Place Without The Olympics

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While Arizona Softball freshman catcher Chelsea Goodacre seems calm and poised, she cannot hide the disappointment in her voice.

“It’s been my dream ever since I started playing softball. I always dreamed of playing for team USA, winning a gold medal,” Goodacre said. “I think that’s everyone’s dream when they first start playing.

Goodacre, the former USA Junior national team member, is one of thousands of players who had their ultimate dreams dashed when the International Olympic Committee decided to eliminate softball from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The sport also failed to get back on the program for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.


“We had thought we had done everything in our powers to be able to show them that number one, softball would draw and it was competitive,” Two-time National Team head coach Mike Candrea said.  
Candrea coached Team USA to a gold medal in Athens and a silver in Beijing as well as bringing eight national championships to Arizona.
“We just really got caught by surprise.” he said.

Softball was played in the Olympics from 1996 through 2008. The United States won three gold medals and a silver, making it to the finals in all four Olympics.

Candrea blames softball’s exclusion on fundamental differences between Europe and the Americas.

Belgian born Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, lobbied for the inclusion of golf and rugby in the summer games, forcing the committee to exclude what became baseball and softball. Rogge is a former member of the Belgian Rugby National team.
 
“The future to life after NCAA softball, there really isn’t much,” Arizona assistant coach Stacy Iveson said.
Iveson has been instrumental in developing Olympic pitchers like Jennie Finch.
“Being able to go represent and wear USA across your chest and the goal of being on the medal stand,” she said. “There is no way to replace that.”

Alicia Hollowell, director of softball operations at Arizona, knows exactly what it means to represent her country. Hollowell was a member of the national team from 2005 – 2008, appearing in Beijing as an alternate.

“The Olympics is always the pinnacle. It is the highest level that you could achieve,” Hollowell said. “So many little girls will not have the chance to wear USA across their chest and stand on a medal podium. It is really disappointing.”

The creation of a professional softball league has helped to soften the blow for some. National Pro Fastpitch was created in 2004 and currently has four teams in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Illinois.

“I hope it will infuse professional softball,” Arizona State head coach Clint Myers said.

Myers, a baseball convert, has lead the Sun Devils to two NCAA National Championships, most recently in 2011.
“I hope (The NFP ends) up with 10 or 12 teams,” he said.

While softball may be down for the count, it is not out for good just yet.

Members of the International Softball Federation, along with members of baseball’s governing body, met with the IOC to discuss the merger of the two federations in hopes of gaining inclusion in the 2020 summer games. The IOC will add one more sport to the 2020 games and officially which sport will be decided by a vote in September 2013.

While the NPF may be a dream of some, Goodacre is not optimistic.

“It’s kind of hard coming into college and then you’re a senior and college and that’s all we get,” she said. “There is no real future in fast pitch,” she said.
Her dream will have to be on hold for a while.

“It’s been my dream ever since I started playing softball,” Goodacre said. “(I) Always dreamed of playing for the USA, winning a gold medal, being like Jennie (Finch). I think that’s everyone’s dream when they first start playing.”

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